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Jennifer McCaskill
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Officiants matter for same-sex couples and divorce

Many New Jersey couples dream of a wedding in a special locale, whether within the state or elsewhere in the nation. That may create an ideal setting, but some couples will run into trouble in the event of a divorce. It turns out the individual who officiates the ceremony is critical to same-sex couples and divorce.

Each state has a unique set of rules when it comes to whom is authorized to join two individuals in marriage. In general, most ordained members of the clergy qualify, as do judges and magistrates. When it comes to clergy who obtained ordination through unconventional means, however, things can become cloudy. 

Many couples choose to have a friend or family member go through the process of becoming ordained online. One church offering that service is the Universal Life Church. Anyone can go through the organization's website and complete the process of becoming an ordained minister with little to no cost or training. 

In regard to New Jersey same-sex couples and divorce, that approach can be appealing if the couple encounter difficulty finding a minister from a more traditional church to perform the wedding. But if the state in which the marriage is performed does not recognize the authority of an "online" minister, then a divorce court could find that there was no legal marriage from the beginning. That can lead to a scenario in which property division is a difficult and expensive uphill battle. A little bit of research can go a long way toward preventing such an outcome. 

Source: kiiitv.com, "Are you sure you're really married? Take a look at who married you", Ron Maxey, March 13, 2018

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